High Plains Drifter
By Joe Ewing
The air on the Allegheny is cold. The thermometer on the dashboard reads, “Zero”. It’s dark. The sinking sun vanished beyond the distant horizon hours ago. There’s no light pollution here and there’s no moon or stars. It’s zero-dark-thirty. The digital clock on the dashboard reads “8:15”. A stiff north breeze is the only thing moving. I know the wind chill index is low. The truck’s gas gauge reads empty. I’m running on fumes. I’ll be out for a hike if the motor quits. I haven’t seen another human for hours. My hunting partner deserted me. It’s bowling night and I’m chasing a beagle named Speckles.
They’ve abandoned me before. I’m talking about both of them. I’m accustomed to being forsaken. I had to take him back to town because he couldn’t bear being late for bowling. I had to call home anyway and buy batteries for the electronics. He was telling me how his son didn’t come in until after dark one evening during deer season. “I hope it wasn’t bowling night,” I muttered sarcastically out of the corner of my mouth. I’m not leaving this hound out in the cold. This lost dog thing only happens when I’m low on battery power, short on gasoline or there’s a schedule to meet.
I have a Tracker® receiver clutched in my nearly frostbitten, formerly nicotine stained fingers and Speckles has a Wildlife Materials® collar draped around her neck. I’ve been chasing this baffling signal from hillside to mountainside since three o’clock this afternoon. I’ve been using this dog retrieval gear for a while now and there’s one thing I should’ve learned and that is not to chase beagles on foot. My dad always told me, “What you lack in your head you’ll make up for in your feet.” I believe him now. I will not chase these beagles on foot ever again, I keep promising myself, but then I do it again. The hounds are faster than I am and they always, without fail, beat me back to the truck. I’ve had lost beagles arrive back home before me. This is not my first rodeo.
There are miles of roads in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). With the uptick of increased oil and gas developing along with the usual timbering operations there are even more roads being built. Many ANF roads are gated but some gates are left unlocked. The increase in crude oil prices has forced the oil and gas companies to keep their roads open. Nonetheless, many hunters carry tire chains, tow straps and tow chains and come-alongs.
Don’t miss the remainder of this article and photos starting on page 8 of our June Better Beagling!